It’s safe to say nearly everyone has been feeling a bit negative recently, especially in the past two years.
Humans and the Negativity BiasWhy is it that one critical comment from a coworker or someone cutting you off in traffic is enough to ruin your day? We often ruminate on these minor irritations, allowing them to take over our thoughts and taint what might otherwise be a great day. So why do our minds seem to focus on and place more importance on bad things instead of good things?
Science suggests that we have a bias.
Negativity Bias in the Modern WorldToday, we live in a much safer world, and the threats to our health and well-being are generally more insidious than an attack from a ferocious animal.
While there are fewer threats to our personal health and safety, and they are usually less catastrophic, our brains continue to look for new things to worry about. As a result, we constantly scan for dangerous situations and expend a lot of resources focusing our attention on them.
Negativity and HealthMany traditional medical practices have long recognized the relationship between our emotions and health, and science continues to explore this connection.
Emotions that we may label as unpleasant can also be destructive to our health.
Your Brain on PositivityAll of this information isn’t meant to feed any negativity, but rather can help us understand why we may easily get stuck in negative loops and find them so difficult to escape. The good news is that we can train our brains to be more positive and improve our health in the process.
AwarenessThe first step is simply being aware that our brains work this way; it's helpful to know that you're more sensitive to negative stimuli from your environment and tend to lock onto it. In “The Power of Bad,” co-author Roy Baumeister says that the bulk of their research into the negativity bias shows that bad things have two, three, or four times the impact of good things. He uses the example of a relationship to demonstrate his point: If you have done something to annoy your spouse and want to make it up to them, you will have to do three or perhaps four nice things just to come out even.
Change the FocusThe next time you notice yourself stewing over a passing comment from a friend or fixating on the latest catastrophic news story, tell yourself you need to look for some more positive news. Go outside for a walk or listen to some of your favorite music. Do something you know makes you feel good. Changing your environment and stimulus is hugely helpful and will pull you out of the cycle you may be stuck in.
Foster PositivityThis may seem difficult to believe right now, but there are all kinds of wonderful things happening in the world; you may just not be hearing about them. Bad news dominates the airwaves, but positive stories are out there; you just have to work a little harder to find them. I've been inviting the Good News Network into my inbox for years for this very reason. The Epoch Times Inspired section offers another uplifting source.
Another way to foster a more positive mindset, suggested by the authors of “The Power of Bad,” is a gratitude journal to counteract our inclination toward gloom and doom. Seeking out, focusing on, and writing daily about the positive aspects of our lives is an excellent way to foster positivity and can help rewire the brain away from our negative tendencies.
- An unsolicited hug from one of my children
- Watching birds at the feeders
- Petting the cat
- Tending to the plants in my garden
It's worth taking some time to think about what brings you joy and to make time for those things as often as you can. The activities that make you happier and healthier combat the negativity competing for your energy and attention. If we all took the time to do more positive things that bring us joy, it could not only benefit our lives, but also help our brains see the world as a happier, more positive place.